Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Atheists?

Is it just me or did it seem as if Princess Kate Middleton almost rolled her eyes whenever the reverend Bishop of London said the words "Jesus Christ"?

And did it seem as if HRH William was biting his lower lip at the same time, almost as if he was trying not to laugh?

Of course it's probably my overactive imagination, after all, Prince William's own grandmother, her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the head of the Church of England... maybe everybody in the house of Windsor is simply trying to keep up appearances.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Reverse Kalam Cosmological Argument -UPDATED

Theists often use the Kalam Cosmological Argument in an attempt to confuse atheists.

They state:

(1) Everything that began to exist has a cause.
(2) The universe has a beginning.
(3) The universe has a cause.
(4) If the universe has a cause, we call that cause God.
(5) God exists.

Then, when atheists ask: "What is the cause of God?" Theists will answer : "God does not have a cause because God is eternal and timeless, and existed prior to the existence of time, therefore God is not limited by time" ... which is pretty much nonsense, because 'prior to the existence of time' is a chronological statement in and of itself.

Therefore, I propose the "Reverse Kalam Cosmological Argument":

(1)Everything that began to exist has a cause.
(2)God, being eternal, does not have a beginning.
(3) God does not have a cause.
(4) If God does not have a cause, then God never began to exist.
(5) God does not exist.

*UPDATE (2011-05-03): reworded the statements to be less convoluted. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

In a fiat money system... are taxes needed?

I want to hear from "experts" who really understand how fiat monetary systems work.

I get the idea that money is not backed by anything other than 'trust'. 

I get that money is 'loaned into existence' out of thin air.

I get that a debt-based monetary system is a great tool to keep people working and producing, aka keeping people enslaved without their awareness (how clever!). Without debt, economic growth would slow down.

I get that this injection of phony money into an economic system drives inflation, and that this is why deficit spending accelerates inflation; because governments have to borrow into existence phony money that never ever existed.

And I get that when a government pays its debts back to a central bank, that the money just 'disappears' back into oblivion.

What I don't get is why do governments still need to raise taxes if the central banks can just wave a magic wand to wish more money into existence?

If the value of money is literally based on nothing, then why does it matter?

I'm really trying to understand how this mess works. 

Does anyone actually understand this hocus-pocus anyway? I like to think that if I figured out the mechanism by which ion channels operate, that I could understand this fiat money stuff... but I still can't wrap my mind around it, which makes me think that it's either way simpler than I imagine, or it's a big scam by central bankers to print themselves a bunch of counterfeit bank notes while we perform slave labor paying interest charges and taxes to a bunch of pigs. 

Someone please explain. If they (ah! the elusive 'they') can print phony fiat money, why are we still being taxed?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Surprise Quiz

Quick! Without googling it, (or yahooing it, or binging it either), name one modern, civilized country that has NO TAXES. Yes, no property tax, no sales tax, no income tax, no tolls, no tariffs, no duties. NO TAXES whatsoever.

Think you know the answer?

No cheating! Do not use search engines to find the answer!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

How my car saved the life of a mouse

Late last night as I was driving home, I saw some movement up ahead. Some animal was running in circles and figure eights on the road. As I got closer, I realized it was a domestic cat chasing a mouse. The cat was so absorbed by the chase, that it ignored the car until the last moment. Then he jumped off to the right side of the road, and the mouse scurried away to safety on the left side of the road. Of course, the cat probably went hunting for the mouse again as soon as I was gone, but I did buy some time for the rodent.

So the moral of the story is that when everything seems lost, not everything is lost. Events completely out of your control could change your fortunes.

So hope for the best, and prepare for the worst.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I'm not trying to blame the victim but...

Holly Bobo, the missing college student from Tennessee, has now been missing for over a week. Allegedly, a man dressed in camouflage garb dragged her from her carport to the woods behind her house.

And that's about all I know about the case, from the 2 news articles I've read about it. So I don't know much about her or about the circumstances of her disappearance, other than what has been relayed via the media.

But this I do know; and I know I am going to get a lot of hate mail for writing this, but I have to say it anyway:  Had she been armed, she would have had a fighting chance to resist. There is no evidence that she made any attempt to shoot her abductor, which probably means she was not armed, or if she was, she was not trained to, or prepared to use her weapon.

If you are abducted, RESIST AT ANY COST. Do not comply with the assailant's request, do not negotiate, do not get in the car, do not stop striking; if the kidnapper has demonstrated that he/she is not interested in your money or your property, you can assume that they are after YOUR LIFE. This means that you are involved in a critical dynamic incident, and in such an incident, you must KILL or GET KILLED. Make it as difficult for the kidnapper(s) as possible. Become more trouble than you are worth.

Location "A" is where the abduction takes place. Location "B" is where you are being taken to, and is where you are going to be KILLED. If you allow your abductor to relocate you to location "B", you are royally screwed. Your best chance of escape is while you are still in transit. The closer to location "B" you get, the smaller your chances of survival are. Yes, I will not lie to you, there is a good chance you might get injured or killed while attempting to resist or attempting to escape. But it is you best chance of survival. Because if you find yourself at location "B", the game is over and you are already dead; you might as well just slit your own throat at that point. Millions of years of evolution have hard-wired a fight or flight response into your nervous system, because it worked for your ancestors, going back millions of years, it kept them alive. Discover the learned evolutionary lessons programmed into your genetic code. Do not go gentle. Run, and if you cannot run, fight. And if you cannot fight, SHOOT. And if you cannot shoot... buy a gun in your next life.

"Before all else, be armed" Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (3 May 1469 – 21 June 1527)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

On the importance of tipping your bartender

Today was a slow day on the slopes.

Slow because the warm spring weather is melting the snow base into a heavy, sticky slush that creates a lot of friction under snowboards (or skis, if you prefer that more traditional sport), and causes the rider to lose a lot of momentum really quickly. Imagine skiing in ice cream. That was the consistency today. Each turn today required some serious muscle to cut into the dense snow, and by the fourth run, I could barely move my quadriceps. The advantage of this extra friction meant that I was able to tackle really, really steep terrain, without fear of picking up too much momentum, but it exhausted me.

So eventually, with the heat and the exertion, I become physically tired, (though not tired of looking at the girls skiing in bikini tops), and I decide to go into the pub for a slice of cheese pizza and a few beers. The patio door was wide open, and out on the deck, a bearded dude in sandals was playing some Jimmy Buffet songs on his guitar. I ask the bartender for a pint of a local beer, and so does my significant other.

The bartender serves us two plastic cups filled with ale, and says "That will be 10 dollars please." Mind you, this was a delicious, hoppy brew, one that was in fact worth 5 dollars per pint. Not some piss-yellow watery beverage that some unscrupulous mega-breweries market as 'beer'. I hand the bartender a ten-dollar bill, and two singles, which she thanks me for.

As I lift my wobbly, thin plastic cup from the bar, I accidentally spill a few drops. I then reach quickly for a paper napkin.... and accidentally knock down my significant other's cup, and out comes splashing all that good beer on our ski pants and all over the bar stool. 'Crap!', I thought. I stand there for a minute, trying to attract the barmaid's attention. Finally I ask her for a towel, and I wipe off the mess. As I look up to hand the towel back to her, she presents me with a replacement pint, free of charge.

I am guessing that if I hadn't tipped her, I would have had to pay for it.

Tip your bartender well, it will pay off.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bye, Bye Mr Beck

Republicans are smarter than I thought.

I mean it.

They have wised up to the fact that entertainers like Beck and Palin are too extreme and are giving them a bad name.

Now that Beck is no longer employed at Fox News, and that Gov. Palin's ratings are tanking in the polls, it seems apparent that the GOP establishment is realizing that a more reasonable approach is more likely to attract voters. A recent poll indicates that the percentage of Republicans who hold a non-favorable view of the Tea Party has increased. Perhaps republican voters themselves are growing wiser. Could this be true?

If the answer is yes, then Democrats need to get their act together, because a more moderate GOP is a much bigger threat to them, one that could siphon votes away from them.

However, let's keep in mind that neither Republicans nor Democrats have any idea what really needs to happen to fix this country. I think we should all write-in 'None of the Above'.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sometimes low-tech is better II

When you increase the number of moving parts in a machine, you also increase the number of ways in which the machine can fail. As a rule of thumb, simple designs are more reliable than complex ones.

Our modern microprocessors are fast and powerful, but unlike older transistor-based designs, they are extremely susceptible to electromagnetic interference. Electromagnetic pulses (EMP) caused by nuclear explosions can cause destructive voltage surges that could ruin most electronics.

Our over-reliance on technology is a liability, and our culture of mass consumption complicates matters even more. Several industries, such as the consumer electronics industry and the automotive industry are built on the principle of planned product obsolescence. Products are not made to last for decades. They are made to break or become antequated after a number of years, so they can be replaced by the consumer. Many products are not even made to be repaired. If products lasted forever, manufacturers would go out of business and lay off all their workers.

It is said that Henry Ford once visited a junk yard filled with rusty old Model T's, and took a long look at one of them. He observed that the axles were still good; the axles had outlasted every other part of the car. He then decided not to make every other part of the car as sturdy as the axles, but instead, to put less steel in the axles, so that they would fail at the same rate as the rest of the parts. So we get a new car every few years, because of planned obsolescence.

In the Soviet Union, where corporate profits were not the goal, they would build things to last for a long time. Manufacturers would come up with a good reliable design, and stick with it for years. The goal was to ship units to far-flung corners of the country and make sure that Siberian farm boys would be able to fix them with rudimentary hand tools. So they made their designs simple and reliable. One such example was the AK-47 rifle. You can drive a car over one, bury it in the mud, throw if off a cliff, and then pick it up, and it still fires. In the words of a former special forces soldier (sorry I don't remember his name, only that it was during a TV show on the Military Channel), "If you want to maroon me on a desert island away from civilization, and I can have only one firearm with me, I'm picking an AK."

During World War II, a remarkable vehicle called the General Purpose Vehicle, also known as the GP or Jeep for short, was designed for the US military. Again, the emphasis was on reliability and ease of repair. Soldiers stuck in some muddy battlefield somewhere had to be able to fix it and replace pretty much any part on it using just tire irons. How easy was it? Just watch this demonstration by a Canadian Armed Forces unit during a parade in Halifax, Nova Scotia: